HINESVILLE, Ga. (WSAV) — Two Georgia churches, one in Hinesville and another in the Augusta area were being raided by the FBI.
Thursday morning, FBI agents and police officers swarmed the House of Prayer Church in the 2500 block of Airport Road around 8 a.m.
Law enforcement officers were seen carrying automatic weapons around the perimeter of the church, and a group could be seen standing outside one of the buildings with an armed officer.
At one point, a group of people from inside the building were outside apparently under guard. It is unknown if these are congregation members.
Most in the community have heard of the church.
“When people they’re from the church on Airport Road you kind of go I don’t know why, I’ve never been,” Walthourville resident Jeffery Lewis said.
“You may think that they are cultish because of their dressing and how they move so if you don’t know nothing about it you think it’s a cult. That comes from what you see on you understand what I’m saying,” Lewis added. “But as far as knowing anything in-depth about what’s going on in there, no. I have heard plenty of stories from people who went to visit.”
The church has been under fire throughout recent years for abuse allegations and manipulation of members. A protest was held outside the House of Prayer in May 2017 with former members alleging the church was actually a cult.
Chris Chandler said he had heard lots of things about the church but has also met some people in the congregation.
“I’ve worked with some people and I’ve known some people that have gone to the congregation and are part of it and they’re very happy they enjoy it, it’s a part of life for them and they love it,” Chandler said.
The FBI did not provide a timetable on when more information about the search warrant will be made public. At this point, no arrests have been made.
In Richmond County, FBI agents also executed a search warrant at Assembly of Prayer. The church is located on Old Tobacco Road in Hephzibah.
Church leader, Rony Denis, reportedly has ties to the Augusta area. WSAV is told the two raids are connected, though details are limited.
This is a developing story. Stay with WSAV on-air and online for more details.